The city of morning calm
The majestic hills are off in the distance, but the heart of this gargantuan city is peppered with an incredible number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From its quiet mornings to the frenzy of its nights, the capital of South Korea cuts a daunting figure.
Forgetting sometimes, in its muscular wake, the vestiges of its past, Seoul has powered itself into one of the world's largest megacities. It was decimated by bombing during the Japanese occupation, and yet it has risen from the ashes. In 50 years, it has experienced a real economic boom that continues to raise this ancient capital of the Joseon Dynasty ever higher. Today it continues its long history, between 2,000 years of tradition and a very recent modernity. Amid the brand new skyscrapers, palaces, temples, and hanok (traditional houses), the whispers of the past can still be heard. Lose yourself in the narrow alleys of Bukchon or stop in a traditional house and settle onto a tatami to observe the practice of gong fu. Much more than a tea ceremony, an entire culture is carried in its fragrance, that of Taoism. Seoul is a city all in relief, its alleyways sometimes deconstructed in the shadow of the towers that criss cross the horizon. In this urban excitement, we must linger in the gentle beauty of a palace, or in the Huwon, the secret garden where the royal family came to repose, write poems, or simply listen to the whispering of the wind in the trees. Remember that part of the old Seoul is buried in its grounds, as within the upscale Gangnam area, in which Seongjong the king and his queen rest eternally. It is almost possible to forget that just a few kilometres away, two armies guard an impassable line of 248 kilometres the famous DMZ, demilitarized zone and recall that Seoul remains a city with thousand contrasts. And a thousand flavours also: taste the kimbap, these bites of rice and fish wrapped in seaweed, or Bulgogi, Korean barbecue. Enjoy a glass of soju, the local rice alcohol, or let yourself enjoy dishes that are often surprising, like living octopus. Finally, come in the spring to see the trees in bloom, and in autumn to admire gardens decked out in a palette of browns.
Indeed, Seoul often presents itself in the guise of a colourful garden, a mirror of its past and a reflection of its future.